During first quarter of this year, XM, as a subsidiary of Sirius, lost close to a million subscribers (895,628), but added 700,000 new ones, for a net loss of 200,000 subs this year, according to a Marketwatch story yesterday. This, on top of subscriber declines at the end of last year as well.
This sheds some light on a story I heard from a friend last week. Someone stole his satellite radio from his car, so he called the company to have them shut it off, and while they’re at it, cancel his subscription, he wasn’t interested in buying a new one, and he’s not all that thrilled with the new channels since the Sirius XM merger. Not so fast, said the person on the other end of the phone, we’ll send you a new radio at no charge. My friend couldn’t believe his luck. Clearly, they’re in survival mode, and giving away radios that they can’t sell to retain paying customers is what they’re willing to do.
Satellite radio has relied heavily on new car sales to sell their product, now with the car industry in its own freefall, Sirius XM is doing everything it can to survive. They’ve begun to quietly market a streaming option to subscribers, and they are launching a new iPhone app, which will provide mobile streaming options to listeners. This, according to WSJ’s Sarah McBride, is a tacit concession “that the satellite-delivery system that once was cutting edge now has competition far beyond what its founders imagined.”